Doing everything from home has become the new normal thanks to the COVID-19. Working from home, communicating with loved ones via platforms such as Zoom and Skype, and practicing social distancing on our essential trips to the supermarket are all slowly becoming second nature. However how are we faring when it comes to banking? and how can your bank help during Coronavirus?
Online banking and mobile phone banking apps are nothing new, and while a lot of us use these services to manage our money without giving it a second thought, not everyone has access to this technology or is even able to use it. Research shows that a third of adults have concerns about managing their money in this way, and a large percentage of those adults are either aged 65 or over, are vulnerable, or have little to no experience of using the internet.
So, what measures have been put in place during the lockdown to help those who would normally do their banking ‘in store’?
The Post Office
With help from the Department of Work and Pensions, the Post Office has launched a cash delivery service especially for vulnerable customers. This means that those who are self-isolating or shielding at home can have their pensions or any benefits delivered directly to them.
Sounds simple enough doesn’t it, but is there a catch?
Well, you must hold a Post Office Account in order to use the service, which allows up to £2,500 to be delivered to you via Royal Mail Special Delivery by 9am the next day. Unfortunately this service is only available for existing customers, not new ones. The DWP will be contacting those who are eligible for the service.
Customers are also able to set up a ‘permanent agent’ which allows someone else; a family member or friend, to access your account on your behalf. You can set this up over the phone, rather than having to go into a branch.
‘Pay out Now’ And ‘Fast Pace’
These are two other initiatives of the Post Office designed to make it easier for those on lockdown to get to their money – and these services have been made available to all UK banks, building societies and credit unions.
Pay out Now is a service that sends a voucher to a customer who can then give it to someone they trust to withdraw cash from a Post Office branch. These vouchers can be sent via text or email, as well as by post, and are a convenient way for those who are self-isolating to access their cash.
Fast Pace is another scheme that relies on you having a trusted friend or family member to help you. This initiative allows that person to collect a pre-authorised cheque and cash it at a Post Office branch.
I said that these services have been made available to all UK banks – which is true, but that doesn’t mean they are all offering them. You’ll need to contact your bank or building society to see if they are signed up to either scheme. If your bank or building society isn’t, it’s well worth checking with them regularly as it’s changing daily.
How Can Telephoning Your Bank Help During Coronavirus?
Trying to provide bank help during coronavirus has meant banking telephone services have been busier than ever during the pandemic, unsurprisingly leading to long waiting times. The Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Lloyds Bank, Halifax, and Bank of Scotland, and Royal Bank (Royal Bank of Scotland, Natwest, and Ulster Northern Ireland), have opened additional helplines for both vulnerable customers and those aged over 70.
Others are yet to follow suit with that, but most have increased their number of phone lines in staff in order to meet customer demand.
Can I Bank Offline At All?
Basically all the banks are encouraging customers to use online services where possible, as well as sticking to video and or telephone banking to manage their money, and to using cash points and the Post Office for any cash withdrawals.
However, they are contacting vulnerable customers to offer support and to let them know what their options are for banking offline.
A lot of banks including Natwest, RBS, and Barclays are offering a cash delivery service for vulnerable customers, and NHS staff, and some are offering third-party withdrawals; where you can nominate a trusted person to do your banking for you by signing a third-party mandate giving your chosen person the power to do your banking for you.
So, Can I Go Into A Branch If I Need To?
Most banks are actually still opening, albeit with different opening times and only for ‘urgent banking’. Your best bet is to check your bank’s website for details, but you’ll find that most are operating on a skeleton staff with only two customers permitted in branch at a time. There are also special time slots available for elderly or vulnerable customers – and again these vary from branch to branch.
To sum up, bank help during Coronavirus is available, if you know where to look. Banks are doing what they can to ensure that customers can manage and access their money; either themselves from the comfort of their own homes, or with the help of someone they trust. If you’re unsure what services are available to you, or if you are a vulnerable customer that needs some help, I would advise you to contact your bank and find out what they can do to help you during this time.
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